Diabetes Australia calls for a health levy on sugary drinks

Diabetes Australia supports the introduction of a health levy on sugar sweetened drinks to help combat Australia’s obesity epidemic and reduce the number of people developing type 2 diabetes.

New research released today has found that increased sugary drink consumption can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes independent of weight gain or obesity.

Most previous research suggests that increased sugary drink consumption led to weight gain that then led to type 2 diabetes. But an Australian National University led study of 40,000 adults showed the more sugary drinks consumed, the higher the risk of type 2 diabetes independent of weight gain and obesity.

Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said a health levy on sugary drinks was an important part of a comprehensive approach to responding to the type 2 diabetes epidemic.

“Diabetes Australia recommends the Australian Government introduce a health levy on sugary drinks as part of a comprehensive approach to decreasing rates of overweight and obesity and reducing the impact of type 2 diabetes,” A/Professor Johnson said.

“A levy would reduce consumption and the revenue generated could support public education campaigns and initiatives to prevent type 2 diabetes and address childhood obesity.

The highest consumption of sugary drinks in Australia is with children and we must address this. There is no nutritional value to these sugary drinks.”

“Research suggests that after reducing consumption of sugar drinks a levy could generate between $400-$500 million a year in much needed revenue.”

Professor Johnson said reducing consumption of sugary drinks would have a real impact on the health of Australian children and young people where there is very high consumption of sugary drinks with no nutritional benefit.

“Research has found that a sugary drinks levy could help reduce consumption by more than 10 per cent,” he said.

“Over 25 years a tax on sugary drinks could mean 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4,400 fewer cases of heart disease and 1,100 fewer cases of stroke.

“Anything that makes sugary drinks a less appealing product and encourages Australians to consume less of them, and more of healthy alternatives like water, is a step in the right direction.”

Professor Greg Johnson said globally the tide was turning with more and more countries either adopting or exploring options for taxing sugary drinks.

“France, Belgium, Hungary, Chile and parts of the United States have introduced levies on sugary drinks,” he said. “The UK is introducing a levy shortly.”

“Mexico introduced a levy on sugary drinks in 2014 and follow up studies have found that consumption has fallen by 12 per cent since then.

“In Australia, research has shown that around 69 per cent of people support a levy on sugary drinks if that revenue is used to reduce the cost of healthier foods. Eighty five per cent of people support levy revenue being used to fund programs reducing childhood obesity.

“The health evidence is clear, the public is behind the idea - it is clear the time to introduce a health levy on sugary drinks is now.”

You can read the position statement here.

Diabetes Australia is the national body representing people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk. Diabetes Australia is committed to reducing the impact of diabetes. We work in partnership with diabetes health professionals, researchers and the community to minimise the impact of diabetes.